Ember x, p.8
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       Ember X, p.8

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 8

 

  I feel kind of bad. “I know, but you have to be careful. ”

  She wipes away the mascara dripping down her cheeks with the back of her hand. “Do you think I was slipped a roofie or something?”

  “I’m not sure. ” Steering her by the shoulders, I guide her to the bed and she curls up in a ball like a scared child. “Do you remember what happened with Laden?”

  She shakes her head quickly and hugs a pillow to her chest. “Everything’s all blurry. ” Her eye twitches—her lying tick. “But Em, I think I saw death tonight. ”

  My muscles tense and my lips burst with a hundred questions, but her cries turn to hysterical sobs. I sigh, deciding not to press until morning when she’s gotten some rest and sobered up. Grabbing some pajamas, I head toward the bathroom to shower.

  “Em… why does it look like you went swimming? And what did you do to your head?”

  “It’s a long story,” I say and yawn, stretching my arms above my head. “I’ll explain in the morning after you’ve got some rest. ”

  She shuts her eyes. “Leave the light on, okay?”

  ***

  After a hot shower and fresh set of clothes, I stare at myself in the mirror with my hand over my heart. I died tonight. My heart stopped beating, and then revived, all because of Asher. But how did he save my life? It felt like when my grandma died, and her life entered me.

  I tiptoe back into my room. Raven is passed out on her stomach taking up the bed, so I cover her up with a blanket, noticing bruises on her wrists and elbows. Her shirt is torn and there’s a small scratch across her shoulder blade in the shape of an X.

  “What happened to you tonight?” I whisper, placing a finger lightly on the spot, and she winces and rolls over.

  My brain is growling and my skull feels cracked. I grab a blanket, snatch a black marker from my dresser, and situate on the closet floor, near the wall that displays the rest of my ramblings. As I press the marker to the wall, it’s like my hand is possessed.

  Like a feather in a dust storm, with no direction

  The Raven flies through life, helpless and omitted

  Until night declares and the wind expires.

  Then it flies to the land of stones and etchings

  And becomes an Ember, breaking away.

  I decide my poetry might be off tonight so I set the marker down, but my hand takes on its own life, forcing the tip to the wall again. I scratch down X after X until they nearly cover the wall, pushing so hard it peels through the paint. Then, in the center, I sketch an hourglass.

  Once I’m done, the marker falls from my hand and I scoot away from the wall. I blink and blink again, but the drawing stays. Is this aftermath of the accident? Or am I starting to lose my mind, just like my dad?

  I fall back on the floor, exhausted. Seconds later, I drift asleep.

  Chapter 5

  A week before my dad’s disappearance, he was acting strange, his behavior and attitude more offish than usual. One day when I came home from school, I found him in the garage with his head tucked under the hood of the car and the engine running. I hurried and pushed the garage open and he coughed as the door rolled open.

  “Sorry, Emmy,” he said, hacking. “I didn’t realize it was shut. ”

  I trotted down the steps and peered under the hood. “Dad, are you okay…” The inside of the hood was covered in little red X’s. “What are those?”

  “I’m not sure… I don’t remember how they got there. ” He slammed the hood and I had to jerk back to avoid my fingers getting squished between the metal. “But you don’t need to worry about me, Emmy. I got everything under control. What I need for you to do is find that necklace Grandma gave you. ”

  “The maroon stone one?”

  He perked up, his shoulders straightening, his chin elevating, along with his mood. “Yeah, do you know where it is?”

  I shook my head. “I’m not sure where I put it… but I’ll start checking in the boxes in the basement, if you want. ”

  He nodded and a flicker of yellow lit in his grey eyes. “Could you do that for me, Emmy? Please?” he asked and I nodded, then he glanced over his shoulder at the wall. “Do you see anything behind me?”

  “No. there’s nothing there but the wall and the toolbox. ”

  He hopped into the passenger seat of his car, and removed a small knife from the glove box. “Good. Now go find the necklace. ”

  I stared at him, wondering why he was acting so strange, when suddenly a raven flew in and landed in the beams, its feathers molting and a few fluttered to the ground. At the sight of the raven, my dad went ballistic.

  “You get out of here, you fucking little demon!” He threw a screwdriver at the raven, but missed, and the raven cawed. “Get out!” Spanning its wings, it flew away, and he relaxed, returning his focus to me. “Emmy, if there’s one thing you need to know about life, it’s to never trust anyone or anything. Life is a freaking mind game and you and I are the pawns. ”

  It was the first time I worried he might be losing his mind. After that, he rapidly went downhill, especially when I couldn’t find the God damn necklace.

  ***

  I wake up on the floor with my cheek pressed to the marker, a feather on my forehead, and the strange drawing on the wall just in front of my feet.

  “What the hell?” Sitting up, I rub my eyes and blink at the sunlight glistening through the curtain. Then I pick up the feather and notice smudges of red paint on my hands. “What did I do last night?” I remember crashing into a lake, Asher saving me, and Raven crying. After that, nothing, like I’m hung-over, but I didn’t have a drop of alcohol last night.

  Raven’s not in bed when I walk out and the room is cleaned up, my clothes put away, my books stacked back on the shelf, and my pencils, pens, and markers put back in the desk drawer. It’s her way of saying sorry.

  The neighbor across the street watches me from their front porch as I open the window and flick the feather outside. I start to pull the window shut, but pause at the sight of someone looking up at me from the sidewalk. His hands are inserted into the pockets of his black jeans and black eyeliner contours his piercing eyes. His skin is as pale as a ghostly fog and his hair as black as a raven feather.

  “Laden?” I squint, leaning out.

  His gaze holds mine as a hostile smile curves on his lips and he mouths something, but he’s too far away for me to tell what.

  Shaking my head, I yank the window shut and back away off the bed. I change into a pair of black and pink plaid shorts and my favorite Alkaline Trio T-shirt, and then I scrub the red off my hands and the marker off my face. I dab some kohl eyeliner around my grey eyes, tousle my fingers through my long, black hair, and turn to head downstairs. The aches and pains from the accident have subsided, except for a minor headache and a tiny cut on my forehead, which has shrank in size.

  Raven and Ian are sitting at the table when I step into the kitchen. Raven’s denim skirt barely covers the top of her legs and she has her favorite pink shirt on, the one that shows a lot of cleavage (her words not mine). Ian has a grey knitted beanie pulled over his messy brown hair and his jeans and t-shirt are splattered with various colors of paint.

  Raven bats her eyelashes at him and skims her fingernails up Ian’s arm. “God, that’s so cool. ”

  “It’s so fabulous, right?” he says in his deep voice he only uses to impress girls. “You should totally come check it out. ”

  “Oh, I bet it is. ” Raven licks her lips and smiles, like everything is fine. She glances up at me and her smile brightens. “Em, darling, I’ve been waiting for you to wake up. ” She hops up from the chair and links her arm through mine, scorching me with her omen. “See ya later, Ian. ” She winks at him and gives him a flirty wave.

  “Later, beautiful,” he says and then targets his attention to me. “Hey, Em, have you talked to Mom lately?”

  “No,” I reply as Raven tugs me toward the front door. I wiggl
e my arm free and breathe in the death-free air. “Why? Is something wrong?”

  “I’m not sure. ” He wanders into the foyer, trialing after us. “She’s been acting kind of weird and not her normal weird… I caught her talking to herself, but it was almost like she was talking to someone that wasn’t there. ”

  “Are you worried she’s not taking her meds again?” I gather my leather jacket from the coat rack and the fabric is crisp and smells like murky lake water mixed with fresh rain.

  “I’m not sure. ” He glances at Raven and lowers his voice, leaning in. “I was running low on mine, so I went to get some from her bottle, and it was full. ”

  “Why didn’t you just go get a refill?” I slip on my jacket and dust off the dried dirt. Sometimes I feel like a babysitter, between Ian and my mom. I wonder what would happen if I ever move out—how bad things would fall apart. “You guys don’t even have the same prescription. ”

  “It’s all the same to me,” he says with a nonchalant shrug. “Besides, that’s not the point. The prescription was from like a month ago. ”

  Raven’s cell phone rings and she unlocks the door and walks onto the front lawn to answer it.

  “Well, we need to talk to her,” I tell him, pressing the importance. “You know what she’s like when she’s not on them and the last thing she needs to go through again is another meltdown. ”

  “I know,” he agrees with a frown. “Why don’t you make sure you’re home tonight and I’ll make something and we can sit down and talk to her?”

  “You’ll make something?” I question with doubt.

  “Well, I’ll pick up something. ”

  “Alright, I’ll be here then. ” I step outside and shut the door, inhaling the cool air, trying to relax, but my mom has me worried.

  Raven’s still chatting on the phone, bobbing her head up and down when I walk up beside her. “Yeah, uh-huh. ” She mouths to me, Where’s your car?

  “That’s part of the long story,” I say with a heavy sigh. My car’s gone. I officially have no way to get anywhere, like work and school. And I can’t afford a new one. “Damn it,” I curse under my breath.

  Raven’s face contorts at my reaction. “Huh… No, not you,” she says into the phone.

  She carries on with her conversation while I stand on the curb in the exact spot where Asher dropped me off last night. The shock has worn off and I add up bits and pieces of the accident, recapping each detail. I come to a mind-boggling conclusion that I should be dead; that I crashed into a lake and was trapped in the car while it sank. It happened exactly like my death omen said, but my heart is alive and my lungs breathe beneath my ribs. I squat down on the curb and lower my head, telling myself to breathe. That it doesn’t matter because I’m alive.

  “So, what happened to your car?” Raven strolls up to the curb and tucks the cell phone into the pocket of her skirt. “And why are you staring at the curb like it just ate your puppy. ”